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Wednesday, 21 April 2021 22:06

Latest COVID-19 Surge Hitting Ram Truck Production at Stellantis

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Michigan's worst-in-the-nation COVID-19 surge could be affecting auto production at the plant where the popular Ram 1500 pickup is built.

A published report put the number of absent production workers who either tested positive or were in quarantine on April 13 at 630, up from about 200 from a week prior.

 

Bloomberg, citing unnamed sources, said Stellantis' Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, known as SHAP, "fell short of its daily build number by between 200 and 300 vehicles this week."

 

More than 7,800 workers are employed at SHAP, according to the company, but that total includes other types of workers beyond production, such as skilled trades. 

 

Spokespeople for Stellantis, the company formed from the merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Peugeot-maker PSA Group earlier this year, responded with a company statement when asked about the accuracy of the report.

 

"Stellantis continues to be vigilant in enforcing our comprehensive, multilayered program of health and safety measures that was put in place last year to protect our employees. As COVID cases are increasing in communities across Michigan, we also have had employees test positive. We continue to be aggressive in following recommended guidelines for contact tracing," according to the statement provided by spokeswoman Jodi Tinson. "We also continue to strongly encourage our employees to follow the same health and safety measures whenever they are out and about."

 

The company said employees are urged to get vaccinated and that it has been facilitating employee vaccinations in metro Detroit.

 

The UAW said cases are up, although it did not confirm the specific numbers.

 

“While the numbers change by shift, we can say that there is an recent increase in cases, as there is throughout Michigan," according to a statement from UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada. "Based on our daily calls with the company we know many of the absences are not positive cases, but rather absences due to...


...close contact quarantine, waiting on test results or other COVID-related absences to be as cautious as possible and keep the plants and our UAW members and families safe.”

 

The union noted its protocols call for self-reporting and quarantine for exposures in and out of the plant.

 

The situation puts extra stress on a company already dealing with extensive production issues connected to the global chip shortage. Four Stellantis plants in North America are currently shut down:

 

  • Warren Truck, north of Detroit---Ram 1500 Classic pickup
  • Belvidere Assembly in Illinois---Jeep Cherokee SUV
  • Windsor Assembly, in Ontario but near Detroit---Chrysler Pacifica and Pacifica Hybrid minivans
  • Toluca Assembly, west of Mexico City---Jeep Compass

 

The shutdown has now been extended for several plants. Belvidere, Windsor and Toluca are now scheduled to be down until the end of April. Warren Truck is to be down until the end of May, although the company said it "remains on track for the launch of the all new Grand Wagoneer."

 

The strategy has left other, high-margin plants operating.

 

Spokeswoman Shawn Morgan noted the company continues "to prioritize key products as we work to get through the situation."

 

Stellantis is far from alone in feeling the effects of the chip shortage. Automakers, including Ford and General Motors, have also been forced to grapple with the fallout, and have had their own production disruptions.

 

But with COVID-19 cases once again adding to the woes, Stellantis is facing new pressure because any production losses at SHAP affect one of the company's most profitable vehicles, the newer version of the Ram 1500.

 

We thank the Detroit Free Press for reprint permission. 

 

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